A Sunday prayer

God,
you are love itself!
You have shown yourself to us
in so many ways,
yet all of them tell us of creative love,
that never changes.
Love which in the beginning
created the universe,
and brought mankind out of the earth
to live in glorious freedom!
Love which was crucified,
yet rises
with every generation
bringing new promises for the future!
Love which meets our needs
and gives us hope
through our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

By Alan Gaunt


Credit: Alan Gaunt, New Prayers for Worship. 1972 John Paul the Preacher’s Press. ISBN 0-903805-04-9
Image: iStock

Pain isn’t meaningless

portrait of crying dirty girl holding rose

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. (Psalm 147:3-4 ESV)

There is One who tenderly heals those who are suffering in the most hidden of places. When pain tears you apart within yet there is nothing external for anyone to see, nobody understands your despair, but God knows.

He knows and He heals. Jesus will bandage the wounds that are hurting now, He has no intention of letting you haemorrhage where you stand. From there God will follow through with healing – not just first-aid, full healing.

What I’ve just written could be passed off as the shallow words of a prosperity preacher – I’m not claiming God will make our lives pain free.

What Psalm 147 tells us is that God’s will is to heal the broken hearted, and He has the power and authority to do so. God placed every star in the universe (and stars are rather big!), they exist because God wills them to exist. So we can be assured of ultimately being healed – Jesus said himself this is why he came (Luke 4:18-19).

Knowing that God both desires our healing and is able to make it happen means the pain we currently experience cannot be meaningless. God knows about it, and has for some reason chosen not to fix it right now. We cannot know God’s reasons, but we can know that there is a reason. Small comfort when you are in pain, yet a lot better than meaninglessness.

Thank offering

As I notice and count the gifts and joys God gives, my eyes are opened to how often giving thanks is mentioned in the Bible.

The ‘highest’ form of thanksgiving in the Old Testament is the peace offering, part of the Levitical sacrificial system. A peace offering was the only voluntary sacrifice that could be brought before God. It was also the only sacrifice in which the people were able to eat of the sacrifice. As such it was the most popular offering and is a precursor of our Christian communion meal.

No other Levitical offering permitted the inclusion of yeast as a component of the sacrifice. Yeast represents sin and contamination, so God’s inclusion of leavened bread in the thank offering shows that in giving thanks to God we are accepted even as sinful beings if we come in repentance.

In Christ we also offer our thanks on top of a prior offering for sin (see Leviticus 3:5). The price has already been paid for us, but this does not mean it cost nothing.

“And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread. And from it he shall offer one loaf from each offering, as a gift to the LORD. It shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings. And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering. He shall not leave any of it until the morning. (Leviticus 7:11–15 ESV)


A Related Link:

Gifts I have noticed recently:

  • Caring and competent school teachers {1005}
  • My son’s giggles when tickled {1007}
  • Reading a good book in front of the fire on a wet drizzly day {1008}
  • The jumpy wee dog we brought on the spur of the moment 8 years ago {1013}
  • A daughter’s concern for her upset sibling {1014}
  • A 3-year-old’s legs running flat out down the Ross Creek track {1019}
  • Family trip to the library on a dismal wet day {1023}

Image: iStock

Making the best of my time

Why do I give my time to that low-priority stuff which could easily wait at the expense what is immediate and important?


How many hours have I wasted catching up on blogs, social media and whatever else is new on the internet? Then I find it is very late, my sermon is not yet finished and I’ve not done the dishes either. Why is it that low-priority stuff which could easily wait is given my time at the expense of the immediate and important?

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15–17 ESV)

The section of Ephesians this sentence is taken from discusses the works of darkness in which we should not participate in as Christians. Such things as foolish talk, crude jokes, impurity, coveting, getting drunk, and general unfruitful pursuits. Often in the New Testament the idea of  fruitfulness comes up – our lives are expected to bear fruit for God.

Great, so I’m expected to be fruitful on top of working full time, being a father, a husband, and trying to maintain our house. Where am I supposed to find time to be fruitful?

Godly, organic time management

God’s time-management principles are simple: stop doing pointless and destructive things, replacing them with fruitful pursuits. This is an organic model which fits our humanity better than trying to cram every minute with action and scheduling life in a manner more appropriate to a robot than a person. Jesus talks of pruning unfruitful branches to make the tree as a whole bear more fruit, a principle we can apply to our own lives. Not just adding more stuff to do but cutting away all that is unfruitful so what remains will grow better.

Fruitfulness is also a lifetime assessment – no tree bears any useful fruit in its first few years – in fact God commanded Israel to not eat the fruit of a newly planted tree for 5 years (Leviticus 19:23-25). Similarly, a tree cannot control the seasons or growing conditions around it.

Sometimes life is hard and our focus has to be on survival. Then seasons change and the roots which that down deep seeking living water in order to survive a drought enable great fruitfulness which could have come no other way.


Image: iStock

A church like your brain

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt is ‘Connect’

Go:

Your mind is amazing, far more powerful than the most sophisticated computer ever constructed. Your brain can quickly and constantly adjust to the ever-changing environment around and within you by making new synaptic connections and pathways. These new connections enable new thought processes to occur and enhance how you can approach novel problems.

To maintain such connections the mental pathways need to be used so that the connection is strengthened, otherwise it will be broken down and discarded to maintain the lean, mean thinking machine of your mind.

God has designed the Church to work a bit like this too. Jesus told us to always remain connected to him, the true vine from whom we draw our life. Stemming from this life He gives we connect with others and build them up, gaining new strength ourselves from the interconnected relationships.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)

Stop!

(Five Minute Friday is when we use the prompt chosen by Lisa-Jo and write for 5 minutes without over thinking or editing. Then link up to Lisa-Jo’s post and leave a comment for the person who linked up before us. Easy, and fun!)


Image: iStock

Why do Christians get so nasty?

Christians like to claim we are peaceful, sadly we are not.

If you want to witness heated debate, parliament is a good place to find it. If you want to see nasty, divisive debate, go to a church meeting or poke around on blogs written by Christians. The current hot potato is gay marriage, though women in ministry seems to also be ranking high in certain sectors, and in the US gun control is good to get a reaction.

These are all issues which should be discussed and even debated within the church, but why do people become so astonishingly nasty in their words and even actions over mere issues when we are supposedly all united in Christ?

Reading Philippians 4:7 would make me assume that Christians would be able to enter discussions about even contentious issues with a deep peace that regardless of the discussion outcome they remain secure in Christ:

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7 ESV)

This is particularly appropriate given that Paul introduced this paragraph pleading for some Christians to reach agreement on some divisive issue between them:

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2 ESV)

Instead of agreeing, it seems that many folks take this example of disagreement in the ancient church as license to foster disagreement in the modern church. Perhaps our problem is a lack of rejoicing in the Lord, and failing to let turn over our anxieties to God in prayer?

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.(Philippians 4:4–6 ESV)


More on this topic from others:

He is not here

This week’s 5 Minute Friday prompt is ‘here’

Go:

He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.
(Luke 24:6–7 ESV)

These women with the spices were the first Christians, and they are more like me than I usually admit. They were going to beautify a body, to anoint the man Jesus, who had died on a cross several days previously.

They did not find that Jesus. Instead they encountered Jesus as God to be worshipped, Saviour to be adored. He shattered their preconceptions and overwhelmed their ideas about God, replacing them with Himself – a person beyond their comprehension.

How often do I go seeking a man-sized Jesus with my human problems, a dead religious ritual rather than seeking God as He is?

Stop!

(Five Minute Friday is when we use the prompt chosen by Lisa-Jo and write for 5 minutes without over thinking or editing. Then link up to Lisa-Jo’s post and leave a comment for the person who linked up before us. Easy, and fun!)


Image: iStock

Go and do likewise

“Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36–37 ESV)

This man thought he was getting himself off the hook by asking Jesus just who exactly was his neighbour.

In response, Jesus demonstrates that he knew damn well all along who his neighbour is and has been ignoring God’s command to love him.

We also need to go and do likewise.


Image: iStock